I’m puzzled by the parts of my childhood home that I can remember in detail; I would have no idea on what colour the walls were, or the bathroom even (though it was probably avocado, let’s face it), but I remember certain parts very very clearly. Our house was a converted telephone exchange, but few of the original features remained. Thank God for the ambition of the architect though; where many may have seen a functional bungalow type thing, she saw …. a Spanish villa. So the walls were white, the patio was red tiled, and running across the facade were a series of arches which continued over the driveway. I loved how it looked.
The stairs were awesome. They were big wooden slabs driven horizontally into the wall with a balustrade of wrought iron. What magic could I create here? Would I scale the underneath of each step? Would i wriggle straight through between the slats and enter a world of intrigue and mystery? No: I would spend most of my time wedged between two slats, my legs dangling freely and preted to be in an office. At a desk. You see, I also had a little typewriter in a briefcase, which featured a series of images guiding me through what people did in an office and at what time. At 9.30, according to the pictures I would arrive at work. 11 meant time for a black coffee, 1 oçlock was a ham sandwich. I was supposed to down tools at 5 pm, but hey, sometimes I finished a little earlier to beat the rush home.
What I did during these hours is anyone’s guess. This was pre-internet, so I couldn’t even access real online information through my office space. I wasn’t building an app empire, and there was no-one to email. So I think I spent most of the time … pretending. Pretending to do things that I associated with offices; like typing letters, making up imaginary data, sighing and musing on lunch. Turns out I was scarily accurate on what office life was like!
Granted, there was probably a hella lot more engaging things that I could have been doing, like building dens, bike-riding, dancing in my pants, but hey, it’s not what i was pretending, it was how I was pretending. I could pretend, quite happily, to be in an office for entire days, so much so that my mum and dad became adept at walking right over my little head if they needed to go upstairs. I was part of the furniture (buh-bum-cha).
It turns out that my husband was similarly fascinated by the stairs in his house, but his big challenge was seeing from how high he could jump down and not slam into the wall at the bottom. He’s a bit like that.
My niece and nephew live there now (with my sister and brother-in-law, thankfully) and the house has adapted into a new home. Fashions change: the arches are still there, but the inside is much sleeker and spacier. Regardless, they’ve found their own pretend adventures. In spite of their myriad toys, one of their favourite games involves sliding off the back of the sofa, pretending to be innocent fairies in the thrall of the wicked witch, my mother. They can play this game for hours, something which takes a year of the wicked witch’s life each time they do. The stairs have gone, but the sofa remains. Space is adaptable, as are we, but what is re-assuring is that we still have the guaranteed imagination to find joy in pretending.